Friday, May 16, 2014

((Speed of Sound)) Diary Part Three

Part Three. Post-Production.
Based on my therapist's suggestion, I went to Whidbey Island to go camping. My brother lent me all the camping gear I needed. I bought a magazine. It was a Discovery magazine with hammerhead sharks on the cover. I also brought some food and booze and a toothbrush. I drove out to the ferry and made the trip, about sixty miles from my house.
It started raining when I got to Whidbey Island. When I got to the national park where I was going to spend the night, the rain let up for a while, long enough for me to pitch a tent. Making the tent was pretty much slapstick comedy. There were too many parts. I wanted to make a simple teepee and get my nature on. 
I wondered off, along the ridge that overlooks the sound; solitary and aimless, feeling crazy.
A wound-up man drawn for the moment into total mindless spontaneity. I walked along the park road. Voices and guitar could be heard from down the ridge, seemingly from the water. I never saw anyone. Rain was coming and going. Sometimes the blue sky would appear with bright clouds on the puddles looked like holes in ground, apertures to some other worlds floating underground.
I was feeling good and introspective. The rain let up again and I made a fire. I became a slightly drunk caveman reading about hammerhead sharks into the night. Until it started raining again. The rain got pretty bad and got in my tent. A helicopter flew over head and was shining a light on my tent for a minute. Every sound in the night I could imagine as a serial killer looking for me. I think I fell asleep for about a half hour that night, and in that half hour broke my glasses for the hundredth time, this time for good. These were Malcolm X-looking glasses I bought in the 90's.
In the morning there was a long, rolling thunderclap. It was like Wisconsin thunder. We don't get that in Washington much. It began to rain hard. I thought about how, in the next couple of months, I would get the film together to begin submitting to festivals that November. I left Whidbey Island. It was two days earlier than I planned. I wanted to begin work on editing the film.
Before I got to edit the film, however, there was some pretty tedious work to do. We recorded the sound on three different systems, which recorded the sound on one, three, and five tracks. And we weren't labeling them as we were shooting so all that labeling had to be done then. In that summer, I had Chy and two interns helping and yet progress moved at a tectonic rate. By the time I did an artist residency in Pentwater, Michigan that August, there was a cut of the film and a foggy notion of how much work was left to do on it. But it wasn't ready for festivals.
Personally I don't know how other writer/directors edit their films. It's hard once you've written the script, then adapted it into the realities of shooting it, to then make it final with a fresh editorial eye. That's really difficult. I would compare it to the Word Jumble in newspapers. Sometimes I can solve it effortlessly, and I feel very smart. Other days I feel like an idiot staring at it. I try different combinations of letters at random, scribbled away from the puzzle. Being a writer/director editing one's own film feels like solving the word jumble before you've had any coffee. So many intentions are wrapped up in what you shot, you could really use a new brain to tackle the final edit. Editing took longer than I wanted.
I was back at my day job cooking at a nearby restaurant to my house. I was sleeping too little. I was taking lorazapam to help fall asleep but it wasn't working great. I felt like I was working on the film almost too much, and yet it seemed like I was getting less and less good work done.
It didn't occur to me until too late that the subject of the film made completing it difficult. Stubbornly completing the film may have had some romantic attraction to me, but since the story was about a friend who died young, and the character was named Dave, at some point I felt a little bit like I had painted my daily life with a maybe unhealthy amount of thinking about something that was inherently sad. I had surrounded myself with reminders of a death that I avoided feeling about by working on the film. A cyclical problem. I was turning 33 in September and was becoming more of a hypochondriac because of my insomnia.
But in August, and with perfect timing, I did an artist residency at Shared Space Studios in Pentwater, Michigan. It was hosted by a good friend, Eliza Fernand. So it was a reunion as well as a retreat, a productive session of writing, and an opportunity to connect with the community there. There was a costume designer, a textile maker, and a comic/tattoo artist when I got there and we worked amongst each other in a studio with no internet or phone reception. I wrote a scenario for an ambitious film project partially inspired by the Oulipo writers Italo Colvino and Raymond Queneau. I went to the Oceana State Fair and rode the Ferris wheel. I went to a camel's birthday party at a petting zoo. We relaxed at the beach in the evenings.
I returned from the residency rejuvenated and working with a couple of new collaborators, composer Matt Pomykalski and effects artist Elijah Tiegs.
Based on the original deadline for the film, I declared it complete and submitted it to three festivals. This was in November. I had a notion about the film being completed within about seven months. It seemed like a way to take advantage of the rock n' roll energy of doing a "no-budget" feature to also edit it relatively fast. It was rejected from all three festivals.
In December I made a trip to Salt Lake City to meet with David's friends and family for the kickoff of the Davey Foundation, a grant for young theater and filmmakers. It was a huge success. And it was so great so see everyone, to be around so much love.
I may have thought the movie was done in 2013 but after setting it aside for a couple months. I got the flu and was bedridden for two days watching Anthony Mann westerns and I had a lot of ideas about reediting the movie. As I got better I experimented with it, and was really pleased with the results.
I took out several pieces of music, did about 200 little edits, moved a flashback thirty minutes further into the movie, and in general made the film more focused and easier to follow. This "Movella", as I've been calling it, about 56 minutes long, is as sharply etched as the Adolfo Bioy Casares novels I was aspiring to. 
At the time of this writing, May of 2014, Speed of Sound is being prepared to submit to film festivals.
-Brian Perkins 

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